Review – Eruption from Stratus Games

Review – Eruption from Stratus Games

Designer – Chris James

Art – Andy Kurzen and Matt Plett

Thanks to Stratus Games for providing a review copy of this game

Ther are plenty of family board games out there and it certainly takes something special to stand out from the crowd in the crowded marketplace pitching at families. Getting shelf space and the attention of the masses is challenging for sure. What’s interesting about Stratus Games is that they make no bones about their target audience which is families and those who prefer rather simple board games. So you may not see games from them which will suit hobby gamers.

As you should be able to tell from previous posts, I am attracted to these type of games, primarily due to time constraints. They generally don’t take very long to learn, nor teach and they don’t take very long so they are good for introducing new or social gamers as well as families for the most part.

Eruption, a game for 2-6 players, age 10+ fits the bill here, at least on paper. The basic premise of the game is that each player has to defend their village from the on-coming lava flow from an erupting volcano as well as divert the lava flow so it attacks your neighbours’ villages.  Is Eruption worth your time and hard earned cash? Let’s dive in and find out.

Unboxing

Eruption comes in a sturdy box and you will notice that the board, tiles and cards are all nicely done. The cartoony artistic stle on the cover and components sets you up nicely that this game is meant to be fun, not a scientific venture about volcanoes. I found the whole package to be very attractive and very well made.

Inside the box you get –

1 game board – clearly showing the erupting volcano and surounding villages on the island as well as a victory point track. I really appreciated that space was also used to place a reminder of the game turn actions.

40 Lava tiles – used to control the direction of the lava flow

2 Eruption tiles – nasty problems are caused by these

48 wall pieces (straw, wood and stone) – used to try and slow the lava’s progress (yeah I know, straw isn’t going to stop much lava is it? But its a fun game, so go with it…)

36 Action cards – giving you a number of options to help yourself or hinder others and adding to the games replayability

6 scoring markers

2 dice

Gameplay

As Eruption is aimed at an audience who wants easy to learn and play games, you won’t be surprised to find that the rules aren’t very long. They are relatively easy to digest and it shouldn’t take you long to set up and get to playing.

Each player starets with 3 Action cards, one of each type of wall piece and the lava tiles are stacked and placed face-down on the volcano center. the 3 Explosion tiles are placed beside the board and points markers in the starting position. Depending on the number of players, players choose their village and matching points marker.

The Objectives are –

Prevent your village from being burned by incoming lava

Direct the lava toward other villages instead of your own

Each turn consists of the following steps, in order:

1. Assess damage for any lava flows in contact with your village

– Here you add Burn meter points to your score for each lava contacting your village (burning it)

2. Draw and place a Lava Tile

– you will look to steer the lava flow away from your own village if possible towards the other villages

3. Play as many Action Cards as desired (maximum hand is 3 cards)

– these can be very helpful in specific actions or to trade in for walls to stem the tide of the lava flow

4. Build a single wall, if desired

 – Hmmm… do I try and block a flow or build my village resources? And which material? Obviously stone is best but I only have straw!!!

 The turn steps move along quickly and there are a nice amount of choices for you to consider without burning your brain so definitely good for non-gamers and families.

As the temperature rises and enters a danger zone, the exploding lava tiles are triggered which can be placed to cause mayhem in the best strategies of your opponents who carefully protected themselves. I love this dynamic. You always have a chance to have a go at hurting another player. Tile placement is regulated with simple rules that call for alignment with other lava flows. Blocking walls are overcome if the die roll goes against you. The stronger the material, the better your odds of blocking. Obviously straw is barely helpful.

The game ends when either of the following events occurs:

1. A village burns up completely by reaching the last space on the Burn Meter and remaining there at the end of the player’s turn. The stack of remaining Lava Tiles is then removed from the board and all other players take one last turn.

-or-

2. The stack of remaining Lava Tiles is depleted. When the last tile is placed, the current player finishes his turn and every player takes one last turn, including the player who placed the last Lava Tile.

The player whose village is at the lowest temperature on the Burn Meter wins!

All in all, the whole process moves along well, is easy to get into and works very well.

Did it work for me?

Stratus Games has a very nice game with Eruption. The design has just enough meat for an entry to board gaming beyond a lot of overly-simple games out there. There is loads of replayability as the random choosing of tiles and cards as well as the luck element of the dice (which brings just enough luck to the experience) but isn’t too dominant a feature. You have to think about tile placement and minimise the threat to your village which isn’t easy at times as you are stuck with whichever tile you’ve picked.  The tension increases with the temperature of your village and the incoming threats. Interesting and fun, yes indeed.

Another aspect which is a both challenging and frustrating is that you can only pull more Action cards after you enter the 2nd danger zone and the cards then become a dominant feature through the last phases of the game. I didn’t have a problem with this really but it can swing things late in the game in particular, so if you are a planner and don’t like randomness you may struggle with Eruption.

Be aware , that this is an agressive game with loads of interaction and “gotcha” tactics required. Eruption is all about hammering your competition and burning them to the ground. So, some people may not like the in-your-face agression. Also, It is easy to feel picked on as you can be ganged up on quickly, and painfully. Over the long hall you can get your own back to a fair degree , however it may be a case of too little, too late if you are picked on early. Not a problem in the 2-player game but could get worse with more players, so this is an issue. One really nice remedy to that though is to play in teams and I think that this is where the game is at its best. In teams, you can always support and help each other and I think the team game is my preferred version and will be less threatening to those who don’t like “gotcha” games.

Very nice production and a fun game for sure.

Boardgames in Blighty rating 7.5

Family friendly?

Yes, but only if the kids are ok with the strong “gotcha” interaction.

For more information go to – www.stratusgames.com

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